Judge Sellers announced his judgment.
We expect that the judge will sign a final judgment in our case in the next few days, granting the EOP ownership of our land and building and ownership of the personal property the Kirk owned as of August 15, 2006 The Judge stayed the effect of his ruling until December 1, 2008. This means that any time after 5:00 pm December 1, 2008 they have the right to seek to evict us.
The filing of the judgment means that our 30-day appeal “clock” begins ticking. In order to preserve our right to appeal, we are preparing to file in a timely manner, even while negotiations continue regarding the deal on our property.
The deal has not yet been consummated because the PCUSA, at the last minute, entered what we believe is an additional condition to the sale. While the EOP promised us that the PCUSA was “on board” with all the details we had negotiated, it became evident that the PCUSA had not even been consulted.
If, in the meantime, we go into appeal, there still is the possibility of negotiating a bond so that we can stay in place until any appeal is decided, but that is anything but certain. Our attorneys are re-entering negotiations to re-purchase the property, but trust and certainty are issues.
We don’t want to hand over $1.75 million (or any other amount), only to have another part of the denominational bureaucracy sue us again for the same amount or more. Unless our payment gives us free, clear, and marketable title to the property, and is confirmed by an owner’s title insurance policy, then there can be no deal.
The process has become harder for us to complete, and even the idea of our church building being at risk is emotionally difficult. We certainly still believe that we have been wronged by the denomination, and that the court has erred in its decision (so far). Since the judge held to the “deference principle,” he left us to the “fairness” of the church courts, denying us our real day in court.
We are considering all of these issues, seeking God's wisdom and guidance. The decisions we will make will be based on His leading which are in the best interest of our congregation and the cause of His Kingdom.
There are other concerns.
In one of the most recent filings by the EOP, they told the judge that they planned to operate a church in our facility after evicting us. We don’t see how they could do this according to their constitution, since they announced this without first receiving approval from the presbytery as a whole. We believe that this statement is one meant to divide our congregation. If the EOP does start a church at our facility, it will be to try to divide us by attracting some of you to stay put where we’ve worshiped for decades.
The representatives of the EOP are publicly saying that the Kirk is a “deeply divided congregation.” We believe that they wish it were so. The truth is the opposite. We are so grateful for your support and unity. More than 1,100 of us gathered for worship on Sunday, and we expect to continue to honor the Lord in worship together, without fail.
We will appeal the judge’s decision. Because of the nature of the decision, this appeal would be on a “fast track” to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Even though it’s a “fast track,” courts take time to make decisions, so it will probably be six months at the least and 15 months at the most.
What do we need from you?
Pray for us. We feel those prayers, and they are powerful.
Keep encouraging each other. We have a wonderful, caring congregation. It is important that we support each other and not let circumstances discourage us.
Remain faithful in your worship attendance. Although we love the facility the Lord has granted us so far, we know the Church is the people, not the place.
If you are able, keep up your tithes, offerings, and gifts. Our monthly cost will go down a bit while we worship at Metro, because it won’t be as expensive as our current building costs. However, we still have vital programs and missions that need your support.
What do you need from us?
Please feel free to call or email any pastor or elder of the Kirk. All their names and numbers are listed at the end of this document. Don’t hesitate to contact us, whatever the reason.
In the meantime we will continue to worship where we are. If that situation changes, you’ll be among the first to hear about it.
Wayne Hardy and Tom Gray
Kirk of the Hills Evangelical Presbyterian Church